Archive for February, 2009

BIKER SUBCULTURE: “H-D OUT OF BUSINESS?”

February 22, 2009

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Photo by Genghis

Snow has some choice words for Harley-Davidson, Inc.:

DAVID SNOW ABOUT HIS SEARCH FOR A HARLEY LOWRIDER:

“Your keyboard must’ve been smokin under those fiery fingers flyin over it. The key point for me, after the FU was totaled (i didn’t get a scratch, BTW), was that I simply refused to participate in the scam, the beginnings of which we chronicled at Iron Horse during the ’90s. I felt really DAMN good about buying 35 year old japjunk, which I wrote about during my last stint at IH (Twilight of the Idols: Chronicles of the Anti-Chop). While Harleys never were cheap, comparatively, I think old Ironheads and Shovels are becoming more reasonable. At the time I got my 550, anything and everything Harley-related was a ridiculous joke— the whole scene….Harley tried so hard to remake themsleves….they’ve gone out of business as far as I’m concerned”

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Before addressing Snow’s words, just a word about this new format. The Fickle Finger of The Internet has struck again. I’m unable (for unknown reasons) to access my Going The Distance website to do any writing there, so I found a new vendor for carrying my columns. Hey man, new vendor, new title. The titles of my columns under this vendor, will be “BIKER SUBCULTURE.” Why not? We all need change once in a while, even though I normally loathe change. In any case, the content of my writing will not change, just the title of my columns. It may turn out that some minor glitch which has locked me out of my Going The Distance columns will be resolved, in which case I will propagate both “Going The Distance” and “Biker Subculture” columns. Hey, more to read, right?

I feel ambivalent regarding Snow’s feelings about The Firm. On the one hand, I’m in lockstep with respect to not being able to relate to the new Harleys. They leave me cold, both their motors and their configurations. To me, they have no soul. This is more important than one might think. Harley-Davidsons have traditionally been cherished by bikers, as machines that live, breathe and feel. Not a few in the biker subculture would tell you, that in the lonely confines of their garages when they are alone with their Harleys, that they talk to their bikes. I do. My faithful Harley 74 Mabel, is a living entity who has a unique personality. She may not be able to respond with spoken words, but her behavior and user-friendly ways, are her mechanical vocal chords.

I stopped believing that new Harleys had souls, when The Firm transitioned from the Shovelhead motor to the Blockhead mill in 1984. I truly believe that 1983 was the last year that The Firm rolled True Harley Motors off of their assembly lines. The historical tradition that follows an unbroken line from 1938 when The Firm introduced the Knucklehead, ran contiguosuly to the Panhead which was intro’ed to the Biker World in 1948, and then on to the Mighty Shovelhead when it made its debut in 1966—lost its meaning as far as I’m concerned, with the demise of the Shovelhead.

I can’t even tell you logically, why I feel that the motors from the Evo onward don’t have souls, but I can tell you that this is something I feel very viscerally. Logic would dictate that the Blockhead was the natural descendant to the Knucklehead-Panhead-Shovelhead triumvirate, but I can’t even wrap my head around those motors being mentioned in the same breath as the Evo motor. It might possibly have to do with an innate bias on my part, having associated the Evo motor with the infestation of the scene by the Acronymous Bikers M.C. if this is the case, then I’m really in the same Hate Boat as Snow, when it comes to hatin’ on the contemporary Harley Firm. The Acronymous Bikers M.C. embraced the Evo mill, which I believe doomed the Blockhead to less than traditional status in many bikers’ minds.

Let me use a much hated Obamaism: Let me be clear about this. While I can relate to Snow’s disgust with the Harley scene and the bloated prices of Harley cycles and parts, I remain very much a Harley Loyalist. I remain loyal to Harley The Machine, at least those who rolled out of Milwaukee before 1984—but feel no loyalty to H-D, The Firm. The history and tradition of Harley cycles in the biker subculture, have inoculated Harleys from negative criticism. Harley-Davidsons, have been the veritable backbone of the culture.

Here’s what I believe H-D’s role in the biker subculture was and is: If Harleys didn’t exist, I don’t think that a biker culture would have flourished. Other marques would have been ridden by motorcyclists in a Harleyless World, but they wouldn’t have been bikers. Harley motorcycles are much beloved in the biker subculture, the company who sold those bikes, not so much. In fact, the glib phrase “not so much,” is an understatement.

The Firm has always been perceived by the subculture as people who look down on bikers, and treated true bikers as redheaded stepchildren. Each side mistrusted the other. The Outlaw 74 was a Harley ideal cultured in the Petri dish of the streets by street bikers who stripped their bikes down to the bare essentials to create a lean, mean and streamlined bike, a motorcycle configuration that The Firm emulated to great profit. Bikers have always felt that The Firm showed ingratitude.

Having said that, I could not turn my back on Harleys in general like David did after he wrecked his F.U. Chop. Given Snow’s negative feelings about the Harley scene then and now, I am surprised at how badly he wants a Harley-Davidson Low Rider. Some imprints on our minds from our pasts, will not be eradicated, even if those associations may seem contradictory to other flatly stated opinions. Check out what Snow said about his obsession with the Harley Low Rider model:


“An original…Low Rider, baby. My lust is undiminishd after 35 years. I knew a kid in ’77 that worked at the Little Rock AMF bicycle plant who got a company deal on one of the first Low Riders. He’d never had a bike in his freakin life. I should have killed him, scalped him and rode away on that FXS….”

The strength of his conviction about lusting after a Low Rider both surprised and pleased me. This is passion that I can relate to. Speaking of passion, it is wonderful once again to be able to read Snow’s passionate and breezy writing, even if that occurs on Facebook (where these Snow quotes come from). I’m a big fan of his writing and I’ve missed it. His passion really bleeds through and around the written word, like eddies around rocks in a stream. True bikers have ideals, and this Low Rider ideal of Snow’s pegs him as an impassioned biker who knows what he likes, wants what he likes, and will eventually get what he likes. I’m with ya, man. Later.

FINITO

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